Ruben Cantu

Ruben Cantu

The San Felipe Del Rio Consolidated Independent School District is trying to respond to a student overcrowding and population shifting problem with a new elementary school in the north side of town.

The issue, which will require voter approval, will be on the ballot on Nov. 5, in the form of a $19 million school bond.

According to school board officials, the school district is in dire need of the new elementary school.

These are some of the facts school board members have been sharing with the community during several presentations before nonprofit organizations and a in chamber of commerce meeting:

• The city of Del Rio is experiencing constant construction in the city’s north side, with the population migrating accordingly.

• The school district’s elementary schools on the north side – Buena Vista and Dr. Lonnie Green – are experiencing overcrowding, and the school district has had to apply for waivers in the 22:1 teacher-to-student ratio mandated by the state in grade levels from kindergarten through fourth grade.

• The overcrowding of schools located in the north side of town creates traffic jams during school days on roads leading to these facilities, including but not limited to West Cantu Road, Kings Way and Wildcat Drive.

• If passed by the voters, the school district would be getting $9.6 million back in state aid out of the $19 million bond. The portion to be picked up by the state represents 49.27 percent of the $19 million.

• The $19 million figure includes the land acquisition and the construction of the school.

• House Bill 3, passed this year by the 86th Texas Legislature, mandates lowering the property tax rate from $1.1598 per $100 of appraised property value to $1.06173 for the next fiscal year, and furthermore to 1.04824 in 2020.

• If approved by the voters, the bond would bring the property tax rate up to 1.11873, which is still 4 cents lower than last year’s tax rate. The 2020 tax rate with the bond factored in, according to district officials, would be 1.10524.

• The school district has about $30 million in bonded debt, which is expected to be paid off within the next seven years, but it also has about $250 million in assets to maintain.

The board of trustees will be hosting a community conversation today, at 6:30 p.m. at the Student Performance Center, 315 Griner Street, open to the public. The objective of the meeting is to present these and other facts in an open session with the taxpayers.

One other fact pertaining the bond election is that this year there will be no candidates on the ballot. This year the November election will only have constitutional amendments, which means that a low voter turnout is expected.

In lay terms, this means that a small number of voters casting their vote can sway the election one way or the other.

The last time the school district held a bond election was in May 2017, when the voters rejected a $60 million plan to fund additions, repairs and renovations throughout the school district. The vote was 1502-917, with both the for and against votes combining for less than 10 percent of the registered voters in Val Verde County.

So whether you are for or against the school bond, be aware, stay informed and be ready to vote. Early voting starts on Oct. 21.

Rubén Cantú has been a journalist since 1995. He is the managing editor of the Del Rio News-Herald.

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